Fruits of our (local) labors

Happy Labor Day weekend!  We’re celebrating birthdays this weekend – mine and Ryan’s and a good friend Mike’s.  For the occasion we’re making piles and piles of food all with the theme of being local.  The weekend started with major procurement of local foods from nearby farms, farm stands, and markets.  Final results include:  Coffee ice cream made with local raw milk (and locally roasted coffee beans), dishes with loads of fresh corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and cukes, a fresh turkey from a nearby turkey farm, beverages with local booze & honey from local bees, and from our very own garden a bazillion herbs that can be found in just about everything else.

And three pies – pumpkin, blueberry, peach, all with locally-grown filling ingredients and homemade crusts.

I’m looking most forward to this here ice cream made with our brand new ice cream maker!  You can see the beginnings above:  warmed milk, cream, and sugar and coffee beans, steeping for at least an hour. This is delicious and creamy by itself, but then comes a custard made from egg yolks and more milk and cream, then more cooking, stirring, tending, and finally, freezing.  Trust me when I tell you it is worth the labor.

Posted by robyn on September 5th, 2010 under cooking | 3 Comments »

RAGBRAI days 2 – 7 and home again

Yikes!  So sorry my trip blogging came to an abrupt halt.  I didn’t get in a crash or die of a heart attack on the road, but there was virtually no internet to speak of, so I couldn’t post anything on the blog. It was frustrating at first, and then kind of nice to be 100% unplugged.  That happens so rarely and I think I needed it.

The trip was a complete and utter blast!  I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I really miss the endless hours on the bike, now that I’m settled back into my cube desk chair for 8 hours a day.

There’s something so nice about having only one thing to do in a day – well two, really:  bike a bunch of miles, and eat twice your weight in pie and sweet corn.  And then when you’re done, you can go set up your tent, sit somewhere in the sun or in the shade, and relax with a nice, cold bottle of low-calorie G2 grape Gatorade (…what?) and chat with fellow campers.

In the end I rode about 520 miles in the week, and there was only one day of downpour.  Here’s a quick recap of the stuff I did along the way:

Day 2:

I did my first century!  That means riding over 100 miles in a day.  Also:  the week’s first piece of pie.  Pineapple surprise!  First ear of corn consumed, two temporary tattoos obtained. Behold the corn tattoo on my arm:

Passed through Pocohontas (aka Pokey) and Plover (signs told me that “Plover rhymes with lover” and that “Plover is where the men are good lookin’ and the grandmas have balls… ham balls that is!”  These are apparently like meatballs, but made of ham, and on a stick, like most RAGBRAI delicacies.)

Here is the Pokey mascot:

Day 3:

This was the hottest day of all of them.  When we completed the day’s mileage and were nowhere near the end of the ride (mistake on the route map!), we stopped in a shady farm house front yard, where the wife owner was selling cookies and pickles and the husband brother-in-law was lounging in a lawn chair, narrating the goings-on through a microphone and big speakers.  This guy had a seriously radio-worthy voice and was soothing us with reassurances of how great the cookies were (“best homemade cookies in the county…get em before they’re gone”) and counted down the number of remaining pickles (“just 3 pickles left, folks…”).

One pickle later, we crashed under a tree and listened to his peaceful narration, with Buddy Holly tunes playing in the background.   Our final destination for that day was Clear Lake – the site of Buddy Holly’s last gig before he died in an airplane crash in that very town, along with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.  We filled up our water bottles with the farm-owner-touted-over-speakers Iowa certified well water and were on our way.

This was the day I vowed to eat 10 ears of sweet corn before the week was out.  The corn tattoo does not count as an ear.

Day 4:

It was another gloriously sunny day.  We passed through a town called Cartersville, where a giantly high trapeze was set up above a pond.  Spandex dries quickly!  Trapeze was later closed due to excessive nudity. Cartersville is a wholesome town, afterall.  Perhaps the bloody mary vendors and the trapeze/pond combo shouldn’t have been placed so close together?

Day 5:

Sobering pass through Parkersburg, site of an F5 tornado that leveled large parts of the town 2 years ago, and also the tragic and fatal shooting of the pillar-of-the-community football coach by one of his students just 1 year ago.  It looked like almost everything was rebuilt (though treeless) and spirits were high among the locals.

The town called Dike was selling “I biked through Dike” t-shirts.

Day 6:

Cold rain all morning, but I had one of my best and fastest days of riding.  First day that I met another person from Massachusetts.  Quick lunch stop in Quasqueton (Quasky, for short!), and took about 5 miles to warm up again.  Brrr!

Day 7:

On the final day we stopped at the Field of Dreams!  The one from the movie!  And then it was off to conquer the biggest and toughest hill of the entire ride.  A 1-mile beast with up to a 19% grade.   A lot of people walked it.  I made it up on two wheels!  The reward?  A bunch more hills until the finish, where we dipped our tires in the Mississippi river.  Final sweet corn tally:  only 7 of 10.  Next year I’ll have to shoot for 13 ears in 7 days!

So… Any takers for next year?

Posted by robyn on August 6th, 2010 under random | 12 Comments »

RAGBRAI day 1!!

Finally, finally, finally day 1 of RAGBRAI has arrived! Many months of waiting, training, a couple of days of driving, and a some more days of waiting later, I’m ready to get my very first RAGBRAI underway.

The night before’s sleep wasn’t great. I didn’t yet have that road tired, sleep-through-anything feeling, and I was anxious to start the day. Would I be ready? Had I trained enough? Would there be enough vegetarian food to eat? Plus, I woke up often wondering if it was so quiet outside because everyone else had left me behind. But no, it turns out no one starts the ride at 2AM, or 3AM, or even 3:30AM. (thank goodness). I rolled out of bed, packed the tent, and found the road at 6:15 along with Scott, a fellow alum on the charter.

Townspeople lined up on the way out of town and offered water and well wishes, and sent us on our way.

The ride was slow at first as people found their bike legs. The first town came fast, and riding into the swell of people gave me an instant understanding of why this event is so fun and repeated by so many people year after year: the town had gone all out with food, stands, and entertainment, and everyone was eager to welcome us, even if you declined their offer of a $1 temporary tattoo or an ear of corn. A breakfast burrito was obtained (served up with good-natured peer pressure to take an apple), stories were swapped with a 90-year old woman from town, and we were off again.

It was at this point that Scott was probably tired of hearing me exclaim with no end how cool I thought all of this was and how I was re-falling in love with Iowa all over again. Lucky for him, he got to hear it the whole 70 miles, and tolerated it without complaint.

The rest of the ride was a blast and included sightings of a little Yorkie pup along for the ride, a serious PB&J ++ sandwich, meeting and talking with folks from all over the country, hearing tunes blasting from bikes, a giant slip n slide by the side of the road, and even where’s Waldo in a cornfield (followed by a guy with a creepy striped likeness to the man himself).

After today, I’m feeling steeled enough to attempt tomorrow’s 100-mile century ride, but not without getting a temporary tattoo and an ear of corn along the way.

Posted by robyn on July 27th, 2010 under Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Day 3 – arrival #1

I’m here! Almost! I made it to my old College town – Grinnell, IA, where there are about a hundred new buildings, but many familiar faces and, of course, the train tracks that split the small campus in two.

I stayed in a dorm room for the first time since college. Behold:

Luxury, no? I had two whole extra long twin beds to pick from! And my very own fluorescent ceiling light!

The safety precautions booklet in the room include (thankfully), information on railroad accidents. How not to get in one, what to do if there is one.

Before I got here, I wandered around Iowa City for a while. Prarie Lights bookstore, great vegan and veg Indian food, cute hipsters, and loads of bikes! Outside of the earthy crunchy food co-op was a free public bike repair stand. It even had free tools attached! My little heart almost burst at the sight!

No fabric stores to speak of, though. At the bookstore, I eavesdropped on a professor seated nearby having student conferences about his poetry class. It was very deep and my iced tea was delicious. I gathered these people were participating in a week long summer thing as part if the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Grinnell now has a fabric shop that was cute and had a nice person working there, so that was a nice improvement!

I picked the XL twin on the left, slept, and boarded a bus early this AM to my real destination – Sioux City.

Tonight in a tent, and tomorrow starts the ride! I’ll be on constant lookout for bike-related crafts. Surely among all these people there’ll be something!

Location:Boomer,United States

Posted by robyn on July 24th, 2010 under Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Day 2 – Driving! (!)

Hi from Iowa! It was a lovely day of driving today that included:

Some good podcast listening. Podcasts: This American Life (Ira Glass’s voice is like a warm blanket on a cold day), The Nerdist, The Moth.

A new audiobook – White Teeth by Zadie Smith(?)

A fun lunch stop in South Bend, Indiana. Home of Notre Dame and the Fightin’ Irish, all of whom seem to be Vacationin’ Irish, since the town was pretty dead. See picture above to see entertainment options.

Some singing along to Indigo Girls (an old favorite car activity of mine).

Aaand that’s about it.

The best part was watching the landscape change underneath me to reveal the beautiful Iowa countryside, with farms that stretch out forever and ever, and it’s lush green as far as you can see. It’s been a long time since I’d been here and I’m as smitten with it as I was the first time I came!

If driving through the countryside got me that excited, I have no doubt that biking through will be really special. I can’t wait!

I hope to have better pictures to share with you from the ride. I know everyone raves about the iPhone camera, but I just don’t see it I miss my normal one!

Posted by robyn on July 22nd, 2010 under Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Driving! – Day 1

Probably by tomorrow I’ll post about my drive with less exuberance. Chances are good I’ll rethink the exclamation mark altogether and just go with something between a … And a 🙁 maybe a simple period will do?

Anyway, I’ve found farm country! I’ve got a solid 550 or so miles behind me and I’m nestled in the warm embrace of a highway hotel in Youngstown, OH, after a successful day 1 of driving. Make that the freeeeeezing cold embrace. It’s like a refrigerator in my room, but nothing that can’t be solved with a little thermostat adjustment. For now, I feel kind of like I’m at work so it’s all good, (except this room is without the gentle whirring of my space heater in the background).

From my window I can see a Taco Bell, a Perkins, a half dozen gas stations, and a Mexican restaurant called Salsitas. Yelp just confirmed its outward sketchiness by giving it a mere 2 stars. Thank goodness for Yelp!

On the other hand, my VegOut app tells me hat there are two vegan options within a 20 mile radius. Score! Except that one doesn’t appear to have food (?) and the other doesn’t have a website and that makes me rethink driving far to go there. In light of this, I may try to patronize a non-chain sandwich shop that gets some serious Yelp love. (If you haven’t guessed by now, I will admit that I am a total ratings lemming. Attach 5 stars to anything and I’m there!)

Day 2 will start early and if all goes well will land me in Iowa City, which is an adorable town where we’d drive to in college to get a bookstore and coffeehouse and Indian food fix. Excited to see what it’s like now!

Here’s a pic of my packed car. Bike, big nag of gear, little bag of gear, if you can see it at all. Hope it works!

Posted by robyn on July 21st, 2010 under random | Comment now »


I’m all packed for RAGBRAI!  This is all my stuff, packed into plastic bags. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading about this ride is that water is your Mortal Enemy and plastic shall defeat all evil.  In case you were wondering, I prefer Ziploc (double zip! big writing area!) to Hefty (snap system that breaks.  A lot.)  My greatest packing victory so far?  I’m just bringing ONE pair of pants!

I’m going to try to blog my trip and upload a pic or two here and there from my iPhone while on the road.  Not sure how well that will work.   Either way, tomorrow starts my drive west!  Iowa, watch out.  I’m coming with my army of plastic soldiers.

Posted by robyn on July 20th, 2010 under random | 1 Comment »

How I’m spending my Summer vacation


So, this summer I’ll be riding my bike across the great state of Iowa.  The one with all the corn, pigs, and farms, smooshed between Nebraska and Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri.  You know… the state you’d ride your bike across if you were into stuff like that.  Like, apparently, I am.

It’s my first time participating in this thing called RAGBRAI, which stands for the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  About 10,000 cyclists gather at one end of Iowa, ride through all sorts of little towns, and eventually find themselves on the other end, tired as all get-out.  This year, the route is about 460 miles to cover in 7 days on a bike, with camping at night.  It’s one of the shortest in RAGBRAI history.  Each day I’ll ride between 50 and 85 miles or so. Since I’m a RAGBRAI rookie, I’ve been reading up a lot on how to train and get in shape for riding that much in a row.  My research tells me that there are really two ways to train for such an event:  1) ride your bike an awful lot, or  2) practice your pie-eating and beer-drinking skills until you feel ready to face the week (and its endless supply of pie and beer) head-on.  The event is the last week of July – arguably the hottest, muggiest week of the year!  Double Yay!

In addition to ample pie and beer, there appears to be no lack of 90s rock band entertainment to keep us pedaling in style.  So far, the Spin Doctors and Smashmouth are booked along the way.  Woo!

If you’re like other people I’ve been foolish enough to mention this little adventure to, you probably want to know why.  Why I’m doing this, why Iowa, why wouldn’t I spend my 2 weeks off in July in a more sane place, like the beach or by a lake?  First off, let’s clarify about the beach and the lake.  I dislike the beach.  Sand and grit get everywhere and I can’t sit still and don’t really enjoy swimming or boats or the ocean or really lakes, either. (Although today and yesterday were excruciatingly hot days here in MA, and I did find myself daydreaming about swimming in a lake.  Don’t tell.)

Anyway, I went to college in Iowa, in a lovely little town called Grinnell, and I’m riding with my alumni association.  It’s their second time gathering folks to do this.  It should be fun!

Things I’m a little nervous about:  I don’t know anyone else.  Not another soul.  Also?  I’m driving from Massachusetts to Iowa and back, alone.  And I’m not sure how I’m not going to overpack.  (There are people that will drive my stuff from one town to another, so I don’t have to ride with it on my bike, but there’s still a limit to what’s reasonable to take with me.)

Things I’m not so nervous about:  I think I’m in shape (cross fingers), including in the ways of pie-eating (for sure that).  Grinnell folk are friendly.  Not knowing anyone shouldn’t last too long.  I’ll probably get to see the lovely Melinda and her brand new baby on the way there or back.  Yay!  And also – two weeks off of work!

So anyway, if you’ve been wondering why my blog’s been a little on the quiet side, I’ve been riding my bike a lot.  This makes me tired and sleepy and a lot less crafty than I’d like… I hope to have a craft resurgence soon and am now scheming about interesting bike accessories I should make for the trip!


Posted by robyn on July 5th, 2010 under random | 7 Comments »

PodPillow for Kindle

Some serious experimenting has resulted in another member of the PodPillow family!  Behold the PodPillow for Kindle, featured in one of my fave Amy Butler fabrics, upon which my lovely and dear first generation Kindle is perched!  And it’s more pink and green, which is apparently a new favorite combo.  This one’s for sale at my Etsy store!

Coming soon:  PodPillow for iPad!

Posted by robyn on June 7th, 2010 under crafts, sewing | 1 Comment »


I just bought this full-of-awesomeness new chair for just $20 bucks at a yard sale.  It was totally meant to be that I and this chair would come together in holy craft-room-accessorizing matrimony – I’m sure of it!  I was on a bike ride and passed this yard sale in a posh part of town.  I think that if there’s one rule of yard sales, it’s that you have to stop at the posh ones for the big bargains to be found at rich peoples’ homes, right?  I mean, the nicest houses seem to have the nicest stuff.

But I didn’t stop. I violated my own rule, even though I spotted this cute little pink chair staring right at me, and despite the fact that I’ve been looking all over for a small, comfy chair for this corner forever.  I went on to my destination (a 40-some-mile ride in total, with a lovely stop to visit my dear friends’ new baby in between!).  On the way home, a few hours later, I re-passed the posh yard sale, and it was STILL THERE.

I sat on it, and it was comfy!  And then the guy came out and told me the magical price of $20 – serendipitously the exact amount I carry with me on bike rides – and I forked it over and told him I’d be back later to get it.  And now the chair lives in the craft room, together with me, and the little scooter-covered footstool.  We’re still in the honeymoon period.  The chair doesn’t know yet that it will be piled high with fabric from time to time, and we might fight about that, but I hope we don’t.  Aside from these (hopefully) brief messy periods, I think we will live happily ever after here in the craft room together.  Sigh.  Love!

Fabric ideas for the perfect throw pillow?

Posted by robyn on June 1st, 2010 under crafts, random, sewing | 8 Comments »

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I'm Robyn. Thanks for stopping by! This is my craft blog.

Contact me at robyn [at] dognamedbanjo [dot] com.

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